Induction...what is it? Why?
According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Induction of Labor is "the use of medications or other methods to bring on (induce) labor" (http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq154.pdf). According to the CDC some areas in the nation had an induction rate as high as 41% in 2010. There were several suggestions from academic sources that indicated this number was simply too high. Recent changes to the definition of term birth as 37-39 weeks being early term, and generally undesirable, with inductions not recommended prior to week 39 have helped to decrease the number of overall inductions. Early term inductions are now rarely done without an imminent risk to the child or mother, like oligohydramnios or placental abruption. Late term (42+ weeks) inductions are still very common. Many care providers won't "let" a woman go past 42 weeks. (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db155.htm)
So why might your care provider recommend an induction? Birth past 42 weeks sometimes sees placentas that are not efficiently supporting the baby, babies on the larger end of the normal spectrum, and a slightly increased risk to the mother for postpartum complications. In many cases a wait and see approach is appropriate, but each situation should be monitored by a competent care provider. If you're past 40 weeks why wouldn't you just want to induce? Remember, any unnecessary intervention can lead to unnecessary risks. While a care provider might recommend an induction to prevent perceived or known risks to the mother or child, there are also several known risks associated with inductions. (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/inducing-labor/art-20047557?pg=2)
From a Mother's perspective you should ask many, many questions of your care provider. A good care provider will be happy to explain all recommendations and help you to understand the concerns indicating a need for induction. You and your care provider can also discuss all of the options for your induction. From utilizing different methods for cervical ripening, manual dilation, and chemical augmentation to identifying when an amniotomy or even C-section may be appropriate; your care provider should be willing to discuss options and create a plan if you want to.
As a Doula what I want mother's to understand is that an induction can still be a beautiful and positive birth experience. It will likely be long. Unless a woman and her baby are very "ready," induced labors typically lasts days (plural). An induction might also require a bit more flexibility in birth preferences. I have attended inductions where the mother was able to labor without the assistance of pain medication.I have also attended inductions where the mother greatly benefited from the use of pain relief.
An induction is NOT a natural physiological birth. Whether you induce using "natural methods" or mechanical or chemical means, it will most likely not progress like or "be like" a natural birth experience. This does not diminish induction birth in any way. It is not less than or worse than a natural labor. It is a different experience. A mother who goes through an induction, whether medicated or not, is a strong and powerful woman, tested from the beginning of her mothering journey in resilience, strength, determination, and love. Recently I have witnessed several medically necessary inductions. I have been so inspired by these amazing mothers.